Harvard Women's Health Watch

How to put your smartphone "on call"

Applications that run on your cell phone put health and wellness aids just a touch away.

Multipurpose gadgets — from the dubious devices hawked on late-night television to reliable standbys like food processors — capture our fancy because they promise to save space, time, and money. The iPhone, Android, and BlackBerry are no exception. Aptly dubbed "smartphones," they don't just make calls — they're also highly portable, powerful computers that can perform a seemingly infinite variety of tasks, thanks to operating systems that run programs called applications, or "apps."

Hundreds of thousands of smartphone apps are already available for downloading, including some 250,000 for the iPhone, 80,000 for the Android, and 12,000 for the BlackBerry. And more are being created all the time. Over a thousand of these apps are aimed at improving health and fitness. Some, like calorie and exercise logs, are sophisticated alternatives to pencil and paper, providing a convenient format for entering, storing, and charting personal data. Others, like MyOBGYN and Medscape, provide state-of-the-art medical information or the latest medical news. And an increasing number of apps are taking advantage of built-in smartphone features — such as microphones, motion sensors, and global-positioning systems — that turn smartphones into pedometers, sleep monitors, and medical-assist devices.

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